Catholic Journals

I’m co-leading a series at my church about spiritual practices from Protestant and Catholic traditions. When I saw that journaling as a spiritual practice was coming up, I told the pastor, “Don’t worry, I’ve totally got this.” (Or maybe it was, “Um, can I send you some notes?”)

I’ve never thought of spiritual journaling as a distinctly Catholic endeavor, but apparently a lot of Catholics do it, if the amount of Google hits I returned are any indication.

Although I do consider writing in my journal to be a spiritual practice, I don’t write about religion outright all that much. In that regard, this is more my spiritual journal than the spiral-bound notebook beside my bed is. But I absolutely love to read the spiritual journals of others. Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris, and St. Augustine immediately came to mind. Even Paul’s letters might be considered a spiritual journal of sorts — I’m sure he worked a lot of things out for himself in the process of working them out for the Philippians or the Colossians. I also came across Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love, which I put on my to-read list, especially when I found out he wrote it as a way to reconcile his struggle with depression and his Catholic faith. (I once chose a church because the priest gave a homily about that very subject, which I’ve wrestled with myself.)

I love to read journals in general — there must be quite a voyeur in me — but especially those of a spiritual nature. Catholic? Even better. I think it’s because so much of Catholicism feels like a religion of “knowing the right answer.” We all walk that line between what we know we’re supposed to believe, and what we really do believe — and then between what we do believe and what we’re willing to admit we believe. By its nature, journaling is about the questions — the process would be lifeless if you already knew the answers. It’s affirming to see Catholics like St. Augustine and Thomas Merton in the midst of the struggle to make meaning of it, just as I do. And I find so much more comfort there than in the Catechism, perhaps simply because there’s room for uncertainty.

Are there other spiritual memoirists or diarists I should add to my list?